Hastings' Only Hotel Demolished By Blaze (St. Augustine Evening Record, March 4, 1943) The Hastings Hotel, a large three-story building was demolished by an early morning fire which threatened Hastings' entire business section before it was brought under control.
Firemen from St. Augustine and Palatka were called upon to join Hastings' volunteer fire force in fighting the spectacular blaze, which broke out shortly after 2 o'clock this morning.
Three male guests had to run for their lives as flames quickly engulfed the Potato City's only hotel. Two of the men, who were cabbage buyers, had to make their exit from the burning building through a window and down a fire escape.
The origin of the fire was not known It started in the dining room on a lower floor. Fire damage will run into thousands of dollars. The hotel was owned by A. I. Freeman of Hastings and was built in 1908.
The Hastings post office and a large grocery store operated by A. N. Wyllys were located on the first floor of the hotel building. Postal records were saved, but little else was salvaged from the blazing building. The stock in the grocery store was damaged mostly by water.
The top and the rear of the large brick hotel collapsed during the fire.
St. Augustine sent one fire engine and four firemen to Hastings to help fight the blaze. Firemen answering the call were Elwood Hartley, Melvin Townsend, Rufus Stratton and Edsel Manucy. The local firemen answered the call at 3 o'clock this morning and did not return to the city until nine.
Palatka also sent a pumper and a fire crew to Hastings.
Firemen fought the blaze in subfreezing weather. Water poured on the burning building turned into ice. Lengthy icicles hung from nearby buildings and from telephone wires, as this section was having one of the worst cold waves of recent years.
Hastings merchants stood ready to move their merchandise from nearby stores, but firemen were successful in keeping the blaze from spreading to adjoining buildings.
Potato Packing Plants at Hastings Are Busy; Yield Drastically Cut (St. Augustine Record, April 19, 1945) Potato packing plants through the Hastings area are busy these day, but the yield is way under the average, and ceiling prices are still so low that the farmer cannot retrieve his losses.
One grower describes the yield as "spotty." He says that some fields are showing fine crops; others not so good, and some are complete failures. Some growers will make some money; others stand to lose heavily.
The long drought during the growing season has cut the yield, many of the potatoes on higher lands having failed to mature properly, due to lack of moisture.
And now the rains have started, with good showers yesterday, the growers are watching skies anxiously. In some fields the rains washed the loose dirt, rendered soft and powdery by the long lack of moisture, away from the potatoes, leaving them exposed to the rays of the sun. Under those circumstances the growers don't want much rain. They've gone so long without rain, they are apprehensive now.
Hastings Potato Growers, the Wolfe Brothers, and the Miles Potato Corporation are some of the potato packing plants which a representative of the Record saw in action yesterday. The plant of the Miles Potato Corporation was visited, and E. S. Miles showed how the plant operates from the time that the potatoes are brought from the field to the time they emerge, washed, and dried, and sacked, ready for loading on Florida East Coast Railway cars standing on nearby sidings. The Sego potatoes ready for shipment are a beautiful product, white, and thin skinned.
The potatoes are graded as they pass over long conveyor belts. Negro women stand, watching expertly for defective potatoes. Those that have been cut during the digging, have been attacked by insects, improper growth, are put in the discard. These are later taken back to the farms, and used as feed for stock.
Potatoes are all sacked these days. One doesn't see barrels or crates around the packing plants any more. Negro men who are experts at sewing the tops of the sacks use long needles that are something like mattress needles, only heavier, and their hands move like lightning, with no lost motions.
Digging of the crop is being done by Bahamman Negro labor, which supplements local Negro help, and there is a labor camp for the Bahammana near Hastings. Also used in the harvesting of the crop are German prisoners of war. The prisoner of war camp is located on the Hastings road near Deep Creek Bridge. Soldiers guard the camp, and guard the prisoners as they go to their daily assignments on the farms.
Yesterday about 3:30 o'clock, on the way home from Hastings, we saw the men had come in from work, and many of the prisoners, bronzed, healthy and husky looking, were playing in a big open space in the center of the camp. The contrast between this sight and the pictures that have been given us recently by war correspondents of the horrible condition in which they have found some of the American soldiers, who have been prisoners of war in Germany was staggering.
Deford-Walker Wedding (Palatka, April 1945) Miss Polly Walker, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Yarborough became the bride of Raymond DeFord, son of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Deford of Hastings, Sunday afternoon at 5 0'clock in the Lemon Heights Baptist Church, with Rev. G. E. McGaulley officiating.
The altar was banked with Calia Lillies and and gladioli against a background of bamboo, palm and fern, and Miss Francis Carswell, sang "Because", accompanied by Mrs. Holgarth, pianist, who also played the traditional wedding marches.
The bride wore a navy blue suit dress with white accessories and white orchid corsage, Mrs. W. P. Phillips as matron of honor chose pink crepe with navy accessories and corsage of blue delphinium.
Charles Turlington of Hastings was best man, and ushers were Warren Godwin and Stanley Burwell, also of Hastings.
A reception was held following the ceremony, at the home of the bride's sister, Mrs. W. E. Powell, 806 Carr street, where the rooms were attractively decorated with gladioli, sweet peas and calla lillies. In the receiving line with the bride and groom were, Mrs. Yarborough, mother of the bride, who was growned in grey silk with white accessories and corsage of pink rosebuds; Mrs. DeFord mother of the groom, in aqua crepe with white accessories and corsage of white carnations. The lace covered bride's table was centered with the wedding cake surrounded by fern and embossed with lillies and rosebuds and topped by a miniature bride and groom. Assisting in entertaining were Mrs. W. H. Moore, the brides's sister, Miss Elizabeth Zorn and Miss Rose Mary Smith.
On their return from a wedding trip they are making their home at 501 Kirby street.
The bride who attended local schools graduated from Central High school at West Palm Beavch, and was employed by the Southern Bell Telephone Company in Jacksonville for two years. Mr. DeFord attended school at Hastings before entering the armed forces from which he received his discharge recently. He is now employed in Hastings.
Holtz Rev. Tommy L. Holtz, Jr., came to Hastings from Quincy, Florida in the early 40's, where he and his older brothers had been merchants. A few years later, Holtz, enrolled in the Florida Normal Industrial College Trade School and studied plumbing and mechanics. He opened his own plumbing business in Hastings on Holtz Street, later moving to a larger building on Main Street where he continued in this business until his death. Among contributions made by Holtz was the purchase of a building on Holtz Street where the Hastings Health Clinic was established. A Day Care Center at Gethsemane Baptist Church basement, and the consolidating of the Hastings rural schools where bus service was available to all, were other contributions. His brother, Robert, is a member of the St. Johns County School System and served as the pastor of St. Stephens Methodist Church in Hastings.
Atlantic Bank of Hastings (by Francis Parish, 1978) One of the most important businesses in the Agri-Business in Hastings was the Atlantic Bank of Hastings. This bank, formerly the Hastings Exchange Bank was chartered March 28, 1949 with a capital stock of $50,000. The original bank began with 70 stockholders and officers were E. B. Bowles, president; W. H. Freeman, first vice president; S. H. Marsh, cashier; R. E. Tutten, assistant chashier; and Mrs. Mildred B. Causey, clerk. Directors of the early bank were E. B. Bowles, A. N. Wyllys, Elmo Causey, Lance Freeman, H. E. Wolfe, and Verle A. Pope. The bank opened for business in 1950 and in April will enjoy its 29th anniversary. From the first the bank was a success going from $792, 922.19 in January 1950 to $1,113,201.46 on December 31, 1951. In March 1970 the Hastings Exchange Bank merged with the Atlantic Bancorporation and ground was broken for the new building September 1, 1972. The building fixtures and equipment at that time were estimated to cost $200,000.00. It was a far cry from the first Hastings Bank which operated in Hastings before the "depression" which employed J. W. Case, president, and the late Aden Maltby as a teller.